I am a 2L at a bottom T1/top T2 school. We are the only law school within 100 miles but in a sizeable market. I am ranked around the 35th percentile. I am not on law review. I am, however, the recipient of numerous awards for trial advocacy, have won several intra-school argument competitions and have an extensive pro-bono component to my resume. I have spent more than a decade participating in speech and trial advocacy competitions either as a competitor or a coach. I have a lot to learn, but I am more ready to do courtroom work than almost all law students. I am not claiming to be Gerry Spence, but I have a skill set for jury trials from extensive practice and good teaching.
I want to litigate. I am morally opposed to prosecuting. Unfortunately, it seems like Big Law could give a damn about my skills, and mid-size and small Plaintiff’s/Criminal Defense firms do not hire law students for economic reasons. Any suggestions on how I can convince employers that I have worthwhile skills that will serve them well once I’m an associate without coming across as some “self-styled trial lawyer” law school douchebag?
The problem is that big, prestigious firms don’t really care about trial advocacy skills. They’re far more concerned with finding super-smart lawyers who are great writers, love to research and enjoy working weekends. Really. Even if you were Gerry Spence, cowboy jacket and all, you still wouldn’t get hired–because he wouldn’t get hired. As a first year associate. Thus, the top-tier firms are probably not terribly realistic (but not impossible) for you right now. But the other 90% of big firms (and the bigger medium firms) seem within reach.
As for your prodigious oratory skills: Just list the competitions and awards you’ve won on your resume. If the interviewer is interested, he or she will bring it up. If not, don’t be afraid to find a way to deftly drop it into the conversation. Your past success shows that you’re smart, competitive and good on your feet–three key traits for a young lawyer. That doesn’t mean you’re a lock, of course, since most lawyers are academic snobs. Grades and schools still matter more than moot court contests.
Got a question for Ex-Bitter? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org